Kavanot of Be Still and Know

bestillcover-thumbThe word “Kavanot” is Hebrew for intentions. Each chant contained on this CD can be thought of as a meditation, where the focus of the meditation is a specific intention, or kavannah. As you chant along with this CD, it is my hope that you can allow your soul to deeply experience these intentions.

Be Still and Know

1. One Niggun – For centuries, wordless melodies, or niggunim, have been used in the Jewish tradition as a means for entering into prayer. This particular niggun is a joyous, centering, and connecting melody that brings us into a prayerful space.

2. Harpu Ud’u

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

Usually we think of prayer as consisting of words or songs directed to God. But the silence is equally important, as it allows the space for the conversation to be 2-way.

With this chant, we set the intention for stillness and silence. This stillness is a place that can be difficult to reach for so many of us, but is so vital to be open to receive what the universe holds.

3. Ani Shalom

I am Peace.

Through chanting these 2 simple words, we have the intention of opening ourselves to deeply experience peace, so that we can embody and transmit it into the universe.

4. Laylohim Domi Nafshi

Wait quietly for God, my soul (Psalm 62:6)

One of the greatest lessons that I continue to try to learn is the need to be patient, to not demand what I think I need in this moment, but to ask for it and accept what the universe provides for me. As we chant this phrase, we work toward removing the stress and sense of urgency related to needing something to happen right now. We encourage things to unfold in their time.

5. Alay Aylai

Come up to Me on the mountain and be there (Exodus 24:12).

This chant is an invitation to be present, to make a joyful journey to be with God. It suggests an intimate relationship with the Divine that can be had if we take the first upward step.

6. Va’anachnu Kor’im

And we bend our knees and bow and acknowledge our gratitude to the Creator, the holy blessed Oneness (from the Aleynu prayer).

When I encounter overwhelming beauty in my life, I initially experience a powerful sense of awe, a physical sensation that usually sends chills up my spine, or gives me goose bumps. I then can allow myself to be filled with a powerful feeling of gratitude.

In this chant, we take this sensation further, into a physical act of bending our knees and bowing before this wonder. And as we arise from our bowing, we experience gratitude for having the opportunity to be a part of the great Oneness.

7. Sh’chorah Ani V’nava

I am dark and beautiful (Song of Songs 1:5); Take me with you; let’s run away together (Song of Songs 1:4).

This chant invites us to embrace all of ourselves – not to see the darkness as something to hide or send into exile, but as an exotic part of the wholeness of who we are. In the second phrase, we are running away from convention, from the need to define beauty in the way that society tells us to see it.

8. Adonai Melech, Adonai Malach

God is Ruler; God was Ruler; God will rule forever (liturgy).

These patriarchal words can carry baggage for many Jews, with an association for many women of being excluded or not valued as much as men. Or, they carry images of a kingly, unapproachable God reigning down from above. How can we make this prayer meaningful for us in a more egalitarian way?

I like to reframe the word ruler as “leader”. Instead of a connotation of a despotic king, I imagine a leader that I choose to follow, one who I am aligned with in mind, body and spirit. This is a reminder that I don’t always have to be in charge, that there is a greater One that can help me to carry this burden.

This sacred phrase comes from the liturgy before taking the Torah out of the ark. There is a powerful sense of awe at this emotional moment of the service. We all have the need to lean into something greater than ourselves, something that has always been and will always be there for us. With this chant, we allow ourselves to not be in control, to let go of our strong will and lean into the strength of our loving Creator.

9. We are Loved by an Unending Love

This first line from Rami Shapiro’s wonderful poem presents us with a beautiful chant intention. At times our world can become very small, and it is hard to see beyond our present circumstances, which appear to be cold and unloving.

We plug into the expansive, infinite love in the universe for comfort, inspiration and awe.

10. Eh’yeh Asher Eh’yeh

I am what I am becoming (Exodus 3:14).

Moses asks God for a name to convey to the Israelites, if they ask him who has sent him. This phrase is what God says to Moses. Much has been written about this phrase, but the translation that I like for this chant is “I am what I am becoming.”

We can set the intention of seeing God in a constant state of evolving in our consciousness, yet still firmly grounded in our lifetime of perception. And we can also set the intention of seeing ourselves in this evolving yet grounded light.

11. Serenity Prayer

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This powerful prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr is a cornerstone of recovery literature, and is a brilliant formula for dealing with the stress of life.

A. In accepting what I cannot change, I recognize that I have to find peace right now, even though some things are not the way I want them to be. Any actions that I take will only cause me churn and stress.

B. I also have to devote my power to changing those things that are possible to be changed, to not dwell in a feeling of helplessness.

C. The toughest part is the power of discernment – to know when to accept and when to act.

With this chant, I ask God to help guide me through this journey, one day at a time.

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